I had a quintessential Americana childhood in a tiny Midwestern town. I always knew I was a lucky little kid with a magic creek in a woods and a veritable petting zoo of my very own. Mom instilled a love for projects, Dad inspired big picture thinking. A Bachelor’s in Marketing and Research from Ball State University expanded my passion for connecting people to products and ideas and an MBA from Kent State University taught me how to apply it.
Enter Karma – While spending a year as a marketing consultant in Hyderabad, India I learned the art of mehendi and the power of influence. As the first American woman and just the fourth non-Indian (it was 1993) to live in this city of 9 million, I leveraged my minor celebrity status to speak out for women’s rights and issues I felt were important. I touched every single “untouchable” I met, to the shock of many around me (including the initially concerned and confused then awestruck and ecstatic “untouchables” themselves). Living in a land where karma is considered a natural, constant state of life, reinforced its never-ending, inevitable return.
Nonprofit Experience – I returned to the US and became the diversity Outreach Specialist for Girl Scouts in Stockton, California which at the time was the most ethnically diverse city in the nation. I worked with women and girls from dozens of cultures and joined my first of many Boards of Directors (the Volunteer Center of San Joaquin County), which exposed me to hundreds of nonprofit organizations changing lives. I currently serve as the Executive Director for a 5013c which grants funds to help kids thrive, one kid at a time.
Connecting People – As a consultant to the State of California directing an HIV epidemiology/prevention/intervention study, I brought together people from all walks of life, from healthcare professionals and research scientists to nonprofit leaders, individuals of HIV positive status and at-risk groups such as needle users and workers from the sex industry. Our award winning proposal epitomized the fact that the best solutions are collaborative and we all have a role to play. Later, in Tucson, I chaired an effort for many years, connecting kids (eventually, in all time zones) with one moment of positive, focused thought, which included teacher’s tips and discussion topics to help kids grasp and begin to wield the power of their own thoughts and attitude.
Cause Marketing – With the fortuitous move to Tucson, Arizona I stepped into the for-profit world with a nonprofit twist. Working for a national chain of family entertainment centers I launched a comprehensive Cause Marketing campaign partnering with a dizzying array of nonprofits. Business flourished, the nonprofits benefited and families were inspired to do a little good when they had a little fun. It was the late 1990s and Cause Marketing was a relatively new concept. I authored a guide book and presented to national audiences how being good is good for business.
Creative Endeavors – Tucson is rich with art, music, creativity and inspiration. I’ve helped many great nonprofits and I was proud to be named Tucson Humane Society’s Humane Individual of the Year. I collaborated with a visually impaired artist, adding Braille to her canvasses which not only was the best coincidence of my life (IOU a blog post on that story), it sparked the idea of Braille jewelry. I was exposed to fire performance art and learned from the Artistic Director of Flam Chen, arguably the finest pyrotechnic troupe in the world. I also took advantage of Tucson’s abundance of community education classes, learning stained glass, welding, and silver jewelry sculpting.
Birth of a Website – In the late 90s the world wide web was starting to become more a part of life. I launched NiceGift.org, selling stained glass suncatchers aligned with (and raising funds for) ten nonprofit partners. Over time, I shifted the site to aNiceWorld.com sculpting jewelry one piece at a time in precious metal clay (PMC). The Nice boomerang was born and I launched the Braille jewelry line. At the time I hadn’t heard of or previously seen Braille jewelry.
A Nice World Reborn in Wax – On April 10, 2014 I met Alex Streeter, an extraordinary New York based jeweler who had miraculously relocated to the heart of Barrio Viejo in Tucson. Lo and behold Alex and I struck up a friendship. He’s not just an incredibly skilled, storied artist. He is the most vibrant, brilliant, fascinating and positive person I’ve ever met and a pure laugh riot. He was curious about PMC and together we created a piece which he then cast. This opened my eyes to lost wax casting and I soon took Alex’s advice to “Record the song and then print the records.” Thanks to the casting process, I can sculpt a single signature item in wax or PMC, then cast any number of perfect replicas in sterling and bronze, raising more money (a whole lot faster) for Nice nonprofit partners. This led to the 2015 total re-launch of A Nice World.
The Future – I admire anyone who dedicates a good chunk of their life to fulfilling their passions and my hat is off to everyone who carves out time to help save the world. A Nice World is my attempt to do a little bit of both at once. I’m grateful that people relate to and enjoy Nice jewelry because they make it all possible, thank you.
Whew. That was a whole lot about me. Your turn. Drop me an email and tell me about yourself, what you care about and how we might collaborate and co-create to make the world a nicer place. – Jill